« AnteriorContinuar »
procure a larger portion. I have now a more complete one of my own; and there are several copies in the East India Company's library, of the like extent. One, presented by His Highness the Guicowar, is dated Samvat 1540, or A. D. 1483, and is, evidently, as old as it professes to be. The examination I have made of the work confirms the view I formerly took of it; and, from the internal evidence it affords, it may, perhaps, be regarded as one of the oldest and most authentic specimens extant of a primitive Puráňa.
It appears, however, that we have not yet a copy of the entire Váyu Puráňa. The extent of it, as mentioned above, should be twenty-four thousand verses. The Guicowar MS. has but twelve thousand, and is denominated the Púrvárdha or first portion. My copy is of the like extent. The index also shows, that several subjects remain untold; as, subsequently to the description of the sphere of Siva, and the periodical dissolution of the world, the work is said to contain an account of a succeeding creation, and of various events that occurred in it, as the birth of several celebrated Rishis, including that of Vyása, and a description of his distribution of the Vedas; an account of the enmity between Vasishtha and Viśwámitra; and a Naimishárańya Máhátmya. These topics are, however, of minor importance, and can scarcely carry the Puráňa to the whole extent of the verses which it is said to contain. If the number is accurate, the index must still omit a considerable portion of the subsequent contents.
5. Srí Bhagavata Puráňa. “That in which ample details of duty are described, and which opens with (an extract from) the Gayatrí; that in which the death
of the Asura Vřitra is told, and in which the mortals and immortals of the Saraswata Kalpa, with the events that then happened to them in the world, are related; that is celebrated as the Bhagavata, and consists of eighteen thousand verses."1 The Bhagavata is a work of great celebrity in India, and exercises a more direct and powerful influence upon the opinions and feelings of the people than, perhaps, any other of the Puranas. It is placed the fifth in all the lists; but the Padma Purána ranks it as the eighteenth, as the extracted substance of all the rest. According to the usual specification, it consists of eighteen thousand ślokas, distributed amongst three hundred and thirty-two chapters, divided into twelve Skandhas or books. It is named Bhagavata from its being dedicated to the glorification of Bhagavat or Vishńu.
The Bhagavata is communicated to the Rishis at Naimishárańya, by Súta, as usual: but he only repeats what was narrated by Suka, the son of Vyása, to Parikshit, the king of Hastinapura, the grandson of Arjuna. Having incurred the imprecation of a hermit, by which he was sentenced to die of the bite of a venomous snake at the expiration of seven days, the king, in preparation for this event, repairs to the banks of the Ganges, whither also come the gods and sages, to witness his
death. Amongst the latter is Šuka; and it is in reply to Parikshit's question, what a man should do who is about to die, that he narrates the Bhagavata, as he had heard it from Vyása: for nothing secures final happiness so certainly, as to die whilst the thoughts are wholly engrossed by Vishnu.
The course of the narration opens with a cosmogony, which, although, in most respects, similar to that of other Puráňas, is more largely intermixed with allegory and mysticism, and derives its tone more from the Vedanta than the Sánkhya philosophy. The doctrine of active creation by the Supreme, as one with Vásudeva, is more distinctly asserted, with a more decided enunciation of the effects being resolvable into Máyá or illusion. There are, also, doctrinal peculiarities highly characteristic of this Purana; amongst which is the assertion, that it was originally communicated by Brahmá to Nárada, that all men whatsoever, Hindus of every caste, and even Mlechchhas, outcasts or barbarians, might learn to have faith in Vásudeva.
In the third book, the interlocutors are changed to Maitreya and Vidura, the former of whom is the disciple, in the Vishnu Purana; the latter was the halfbrother of the Kuru princes. Maitreya, again, gives an account of the Srishti-lílá or sport of creation, in a strain partly common to the Puranas, partly peculiar; although he declares he learned it from his teacher Parásara, at the desire of Pulastya: referring, thus, to the fabulous origin of the Vishnu Puráňa, and furnishing evidence of its priority. Again, however, the
authority is changed; and the narrative is said to have been that which was communicated by Sesha to the Nágas. The creation of Brahmá is then described, and the divisions of time are explained. A very long and | peculiar account is given of the Varáha incarnation of | Vishňu, which is followed by the creation of the Prajápatis and Swayambhuva, whose daughter Devahúti is married to Kardama Rishi; an incident peculiar to this work, as is that which follows, of the Avatára of Vishńu as Kapila the son of Kardama and Devahúti, the author of the Sankhya philosophy, which he expounds, after a Vaishnava fashion, to his mother, in the last nine chapters of this section.
The Manwantara of Swayambhuva, and the multiplication of the patriarchal families, are next described with some peculiarities of nomenclature, which are pointed out in the notes to the parallel passages of the Vishnu Puráňa. The traditions of Dhruva, Vena, Přithu, and other princes of this period, are the other subjects of the fourth Skandha, and are continued, in the fifth, to that of the Bharata who obtained emancipation. The details generally conform to those of the Vishńu Puráňa; and the same words are often employed; so that it would be difficult to determine which work had the best right to them, had not the Bhagavata itself indicated its obligations to the Vishńu. The remainder of the fifth book is occupied with the description of the universe; and the same conformity with the Vishńu continues.
This is only partially the case with the sixth book, which contains a variety of legends of a miscellaneous description, intended to illustrate the merit of worship
ping Vishnu. Some of them belong to the early stock; but some are, apparently, novel. The seventh book is, mostly, occupied with the legend of Prahláda. In the eighth, we have an account of the remaining Manwantaras; in which, as happening in the course of them, a variety of ancient legends are repeated, as the battle between the king of the elephants and an alligator, the churning of the ocean, and the dwarf and fish Avatáras. The ninth book narrates the dynasties of the Vaivaswata Manwantara, or the princes of the solar and lunar races to the time of Krishňa. The particulars conform, generally, with those recorded in the Vishnu.
The tenth book is the characteristic part of this Puráňa, and the portion upon which its popularity is founded. It is appropriated entirely to the history of Krishna, which it narrates much in the same manner as the Vishńu, but in more detail; holding a middle place, however, between it and the extravagant prolixity with which the Hari Vamsa repeats the story. It is not necessary to particularize it further. It has been translated into, perhaps, all the languages of India, and is a favourite work with all descriptions of people. 1 The eleventh book describes the destruction of the Yádavas and death of Krishna. Previous to the latter event, Kúishńa instructs Uddhava in the performance of the Yoga; a subject consigned, by the Vishńu, to the concluding passages. The narrative is much
A translation of the ninth, by Captain Fell, was published in Calcutta, in different numbers of the Monthly and Quarterly Magazine, in 1823 and 1824. The second volume of Maurice's Ancient History of Hindostan contains a translation, by Mr. Halhed, of the tenth book, made through the medium of a Persian version.